Chris Felix, a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, is an artist who specializes in fine art acrylic sports paintings. A graduate of the College of Art Advertising in Cincinnati, Felix first received recognition for his art as a sixth grader at St. William School when his pencil sketch of Johnny Bench won him a Cincinnati Reds autographed baseball in a local department store’s “Draw Your Favorite Reds Player” contest. Felix’s art career includes jobs as a graphic designer, scenery painter for major amusement parks, and toy prototype painter for Hasbro and Warner Brothers. Felix has been a freelance fine artist since 1997.
Baseball Art: When did you realize you wanted to become a baseball artist and did you have anyone help push you along the way?
Chris Felix: I finally realized I was going to make a run at being a baseball/sports artist when baseball writer and Editor in Chief of Spitball Magazine, Mike Shannon, started writing a book called The Joys of 30 and Over Baseball based on the Cincinnati Astros, a baseball team I played for from 1997 to 2012. Mike followed our team in 1998 and the book was published by McFarland Publishing. During that year Mike and I became friends and he learned I was an artist. He shared with me his plan of curating a nationally travelling baseball art show commemorating the 75th birthday of his favorite player, Willie Mays. He asked me if I would like to make a painting for the exhibition. This opportunity created an excitement within me that is just hard to explain! I think many of you know exactly what I was feeling and I said, “Absolutely! When’s the deadline!?!”
At that time I had just left a prototype painting job at Kenner Toys who was moving from Cincinnati to parent company Hasbro headquarters in Rhode Island. This job change gave me the chance to seriously consider following my dreams of being a freelance fine artist. Since my college days in the late 80’s at the now defunct Art Advertising Academy in Cincinnati, I had envisioned one day painting things I was passionate about on canvas.
I had recently created a painting of my deceased father and also a couple of golf paintings. For the Mays exhibit I researched and researched and finally came across a small black-and-white photograph of Willie stealing a home run from Ted Williams in the 1956 All-Star game. I used a 2 inch crop as reference to create a 30” x 42″ painting on masonite. The painting was a success and I proved to myself as well as others what I was capable of. While at the Louisville Slugger Museum, a distinguished wood-sculpting sports artist saw my painting of Mays and respected it enough to send me a postcard introducing himself and complimenting my work. His name is Benjamin Blackburn and is a past contributor to this series (please read Benjamin’s article and see his incredible wood carvings.) As time went on Benjamin and I became friends and at this point we have collaborated on seven works of art. He has been a big influence in my career and has helped me better understand professional administration in the art world.
Baseball Art: Have you ever had the opportunity to share your artwork of a particular player with the athlete.
Chris Felix: Yes… I haven’t been the most assertive at this but in 2007 I did my first painting of Joey Votto and decided to take the original along with prints of the painting and a large portfolio of my work to RedsFest in Cincinnati. I waited in line about five minutes to get my photograph with Votto and the painting.
Votto was doing pictures with fellow rookie Ryan Hannigan and a fan as I approached them and introduced myself and showed them my painting. Hannigan graciously stepped out of the picture but if I had it to do all over again I would have never let Hannigan step away! Joey made several nice comments about my painting and mentioned it would be a good Christmas present for his grandparents and then continued the process of taking photographs with fans as I floated away from the staging area in awe. Just as I reached the exit, a cameraman and a sportscaster from FOX News happened to be waiting for me after watching what just transpired. He asked if he could interview me for the news later that evening and without even thinking about it, I said sure and stumbled through my first televised interview. After the interview, I got in line where Votto was going to be signing autographs. As I approached the table he recognized me and signed my print. When I asked if he was interested in the original he simply said to get in touch with him later. I left a bit disappointed but then thought how fortunate I was to have the opportunity to share my work with him. I attempted to contact him about the painting for his grandparents several times but it just didn’t work out. In retrospect however, I am happy to have a photograph, a video tape, and a signature to commemorate this experience as well as valuable lessons learned in dealing with those situations.
Baseball Art: Can you share an experience or interesting story about being a baseball artist?
Chris Felix: I have been fortunate to have met and connected with so many people that are passionate about the game of baseball! From playing the game beginning at the age of 5 to still playing at my current age of 45 in the adult leagues to coaching all ages of select baseball for 10 years, I’ve made a lot of new friends, shared a lot of experiences and learned from a lot of other people’s situations. I began to realize in the late 90’s that I was carving a path for myself which included doing a lot of baseball paintings. Slowly but surely through a dream, tons of research, a lot of hard work and late nights fueled by 40 years of loving the game, a Baseball Art career has emerged;)! It only keeps getting better, easier & more fun.
Baseball Art: Are there any athletes that you haven’t drawn that you would like to capture with your artwork?
Chris Felix: Absolutely! First thing I see is that the question says “Athletes” and not just baseball players. Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, John Stockton, Alan Iversen off the top of my head from the basketball world were huge influences on me as an athlete. James Brooks, Anthony Munoz, Isaac Curtis, Tim Krumrie, Boomer Esiason, Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, Steve Tasker and Brett Favre are all football greats that come to mind. John McEnroe and Steve Becker as well as Venus and Serena Williams from the tennis arena would be fun to paint. Jack Nicholas, Lee Trevino, Ben Hogan, Anukkah Sorenstein are a few great golfers I would love to put on canvas.
But back to BASEBALL… Joe Morgan, Brooks Robinson, Joe Nuxhall, Larry Walker, Ty Cobb, Greg Maddux, Jim Thorton, Ichiro, Sparky Anderson and Nolan Ryan are just a few that stand out to me.
Baseball Art: Who throughout the history of baseball would you like to have the chance to watch a game with?
Chris Felix: I know these guys have been mentioned before but a chance to watch a game today with George and Harry Wright from the 1869 Redstockings would be ridiculously interesting to me. Listening to the stories they would have and grasping their perspective of the game today would be similar to the feelings I have from the smell of a finely manicured freshly mowed infield. I imagine watching a game with Babe Ruth would be the most fun a whiskey loving baseball fan like myself could possibly have! Discussing the game today with Ted Williams would be amazingly gratifying and probably raise my batting average about 50 points. Sparky Anderson would be a great choice and just to learn more about the Big Red Machine from his viewpoint would be awesome. And finally because I am a shortstop, sitting down with Derek Jeter with his experience of being THE All-Star of the New York Yankees year after year would be an incredible opportunity.
Baseball Art: Could you describe your ‘Studio Space’ and what we would we see if we visited you during a project? (your table, what is on the walls, what music is playing or TV shows? What time of day are you most productive). Any other information you’d like to share?
Chris Felix: I currently live in a two family apartment on the second and third floor. The third floor is my studio which is basically two small bedrooms with slanted ceilings. In one room is a computer, an old television, a large filing cabinet, several large print cases, boxes of collectible toys and other things I’ve collected through the years. Baseball bats and family photos fill the room. The other room is stuffed with a large drafting table, a smaller art table, an office desk, art materials, bookcases, print cases, a small chest of drawers, a small TV, baseball bats, baseballs, and photographs of family and friends. Most of the time I have the TV on while painting and of course I love to watch and listen to baseball, golf, basketball and football. I also love to watch shows such as American Pickers, Storage Wars, Antique Roadshow, Pawn Stars, Diggers etc… When the TV is not on I am usually listening to an array of music from the comforting sounds of John Denver and Allison Krauss to Rush, Metallica, and Alternative.